By the time ‘The Who’ unleashed their new album to
the public, it had been over two years since the release of their previous
studio work, the double album of the rock opera ‘Tommy’ (1969). During
these intervening two years ‘The Who’ had released a stunning live
album called ‘Live At Leeds’, which was to set the benchmark for all
live albums that were to follow. They toured almost continuously - with
headlining appearances - at such major events like ‘The Isle of Wight
Festival’ (twice) and Woodstock. The latter gave the band immortality on
the silver screen when the movie of the 3-day event was released to
cinemas worldwide with the centerpiece of the music being ‘The
Who’s’ finale of the opera.
After two years (a long time in rock and roll) the band
was desperate to get something recorded in the studio that was more
representative of what the band was like at the time live on stage.
The young Vic Theatre was rented, the Rolling Stones
mobile recording studio was moved in, and old mate Glyn Johns was brought
in to help with the production. Each week the band would give free
concerts for an invitational fan club only audience to try out the new
material they were recording. The results were simply devastating, from
the opening ARP Synthesizer of ‘Baba O’Riley’ to the final crashing
chords of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. This is rock music that was
hard-edged, brazen faced, steeped in East end class.
‘Who’s Next’ was without doubt a triumph for
‘The Who-le’ band. Roger Daltrey’s singing was uniformly superb with
vocals ranging from the raw power and screams of ‘Won’t Get Fooled
Again’ (anybody who has ever seen this song performed live will never
forget the bellow of celebration that Roger Daltrey lets fly as the band
breaks back in for the final verse), the moving delicacy of ‘Behind Blue
Eyes’, to the altogether more demanding material such as ‘The Song Is
Over’, ‘Getting In Tune’, and ‘Goin’ Mobile’. Across the full
scope of this material Daltrey’s range and power are tested to the
limit, resulting in one of the most commanding vocal performances in rock
As well as his fine song ‘My Wife’ (still my
favorite song on the album, the opening lyrics always brings a wry smile
to this dog’s lips)...
“My wife is after me, murdered in cold blood is what
I’m gonna be,
I ain’t been home since Friday, and now she’s after
Give me police protection, I need a bodyguard,
I’m against a judo expert with a machine gun.”
John Entwistle brought his usual stunning bass playing
to the sessions, enhancing the songs immeasurably with not only a solid
foundation, but with effortless melodic frills.
Keith Moon’s drumming was as supercharged as ever,
but more disciplined and precise. The full expansive range of Moon’s
drum kit was recorded with depth, clarity, and power. Almost making him
the star of the show.
Peter Townshend confirmed his status as one of rock’s
master guitarists, providing rich acoustic textures, inspired lead work
and his unrivalled use of power chords. He sang often and well, too. The
contrast between Daltrey’s up-front power and Peter’s mellower
refrains gave ‘The Who’ a unique vocal attack that invested songs like
‘Baba O’Riley’, ‘Bargain’, and ‘The Song Is Over’ with a
more thoughtful cerebral slant.
‘The Who’ functioned not only as a creative
experimentalist, but as a visceral guitar-driven rock and roll band.
(Listen to ‘Bargain’ for instance, to hear one of the most dynamic
ensemble rock performances ever recorded.) ‘Who’s Next’ offers prime
evidence that the real power behind ‘The Who’ was the cohesive unity
of all four of its members in equal parts.
With the new Deluxe Edition of ‘Who’s Next’ you
get six of the tracks from the aborted New York recordings (I am sorry
boys, but the version of ‘Love Ain’t for Keeping’ was better the
first time round), plus on the second CD a complete concert from the young
Vic. The band plays all the new songs (with only the odd nod to the past)
at full pelt and with more verve and freshness than a Ferrari. You also
get a 40-page booklet with all the facts and figures, packed full of color
photographs, and two reviews of the album from Peter Townshend and John
Atkins. Certainly a superior re-release of one of rock music’s finest